March 16, 2016
Now I will be completely honest with you guys here.
I have a real love hate relationship with yoga…well with any kind of stretching or slow contemplative movement really, but it is something I have tried time and time again over the years with little success.
I can remember going to a class at my local gym when I was in my twenties and just really being annoyed by the instructor…I was a bit like “Oh just shut up and get on with it”
I tried videos at home, I had a few books and from time to time I would do little bits but I never really got it. I knew the benefits for my general wellbeing and for my running would be fab if only I could stick with it, but that was the thing it was finding the time and having the inclination to make it part of my life. Plus people like me didn’t do yoga…or so I thought.
About a year ago I met a lady called Donna Noble who had set up a company called Curevsome Yoga and she was making a promotional video and wanted to know if I would like top get involved. I did. But I was nervous about making a fool of myself as I’m not exactly flexible, so I passed up on the opportunity.
A few months later I was invited to a press launch for something and there was a yoga workshop led by a company called Fat Budda…don’t know why I assumed the instructor might be fat…because she was far from it, and as I struggled to keep up with the room full of beautiful, toned, shimmery yogis I felt completely excluded from that world.
But plus size yoga is a thing now.
There are whole YouTube channels dedicated to it, and WOW if you check out the hashtag #plussizeyoga on Instagram your in for a treat. It is another example of where imagery and role models are really creating new audiences and appetite for an activity…and not based on any notion of enforced weight management or health improvement.
So…last Friday I got to meet an incredible plus size yogi Jessamyn Stanley…now I must admit when I received the invite to attend her Q&A session the name wasn’t familiar, but when I saw her picture it most definitely was, and I jumped at the chance to find out more.
Boy am I glad.
It was a small intimate gathering held at the Siobhan Davies Dance Studios in elephant and Castle, and I admit at first I felt like a bit of a fraud really…like what useful question could I come up with when I am such a novice myself.
But recently, (like in the last 2 weeks) I have been making a more sustained effort to do more yoga…
- I actually bought a yoga mat
- I changed my front room around so I actually have some dedicate space
- I favourited some YouTube channels for inspiration
- And this is the most important one, I got my 3 year old daughter involved.
Rose loves to use her body and for about 6 months she has been showing off her Tree Pose and Bow Pose which she picked up after only being shown once, but with a fantastic channel called CosmicKids I can get away with doing my yoga practice while she does her own, inspired by adventures and TV characters…including FROZEN!!!!
So in the week leading up to meeting Jessamyn I actually did more practice than I have in the last 10 years, and I could actually see improvements in simple (yet challenging) poses like my Downward Dog..and Rose is loving it, she can name a whole heap of poses and asks to do some every day.
So more about Jessamyn
She is just awesome, and this is not just because I love her accent (She’s from North Carolina) I love how honest she is, the way she curses, and yet how articulate and thought provoking she can be a moment later. Her comments are considered enough to know she has thought them through and yet there was no huge display of ego which was refreshing.
I didn’t take a pen or paper which was so frustrating because there were so many nuggets of advice or interesting concepts for life that I wanted to be able to quote word for word, but in truth I was just mesmerized. But I am going to pick up on a few things she shared which really stuck with me.
“When you stop yourself on a yoga mat you know you are stopping yourself in other areas in life”
This just really struck a chord.
In The Clubhouse we are exploring the theme of self sabotage and upper limit beliefs that we have, and its true so often on the mat I am like urghhh thats starting to hurt now, or OK I’m bored thats enough…when the benefits are in me enduring and sticking with it for longer periods of time.
When you look at some yoga poses, or images of people doing them you can be a bit like “I can never do that” but how do you know if you haven’t tried, and what else in life might you be able to do but those limiting beliefs are stopping you before you have even given it a go.
Running is similar to Yoga in many respects. It’s only really the tool for change. Its the practising of the discipline, rather than the actually movements that helps us reap the most reward. Running for me is my medicine, as Yoga has been for Jessamyn…but recently I haven’t been able to run as much as I would like to, so I have been experimenting with other ways of getting my fix. Swimming has been great, and Yoga is helping me to become more energised in the morning and more calm in the evenings.
I can’t remember exactly how Jessamyn phrased this but she said something along the lines of
“People say, can I just to the yoga without all that spiritual stuff”
and I admit when I was in my twenties that was my attitude. I didn’t want to have some instructor telling me what to think, how to believe, I wasn’t ready to go there. But these days I am much more of a spiritual person and I know that I am ready now to face myself on that mat, something which perhaps before I was too scared to do.
We often set up all these barriers to activities.
- I haven’t got enough time, or I need at least 30 minutes to do this
- I don’t have a yoga mat, or yoga pants, or enough space, or a class near me
- I already worked out today, my legs are sore
- The kids will jump on me if I get on the floor
- My husband will see all my wobbly bits
- Fat/Old/Black/Disabled (Delete as appropriate) people don’t do yoga
We use these things as excuses not to partake.
As the evening progressed there were lots of questions about visibility and Jessamyn said,
“I had no idea I was supposed to be doing this, but now I know there’s nothing else I should be doing”
which is 100% what I believe about my work, she then said
“It didn’t need to be me but it had to be someone”
And I felt compelled to ask my question…
But as I semi introduced myself, admitting I wasn’t really a Yogi and a plus size runner instead, Jessamyn interrupted me and was like “OMG its YOU!!!!!!” I didn’t for a minute think she would know who I was and apparently she did. It was a really exciting, fun and slightly uncomfortable moment…knowing that you have inspired or influenced someone elses journey, especially when they have gone on to do so much good in terms of challenging stereotypes.
The power of the internet hey?
Being in the public eye on social media can be really challenging. You are often accused of being a show off, or publicity hungry, or that your ego is out of control…you have daily battles with yourself saying like “WHO CARES” why am I posting all this stuff about what I think and what I do “Why is it even important” but it is.
Jessamyn said something which really made me want to cry a bit, she said,
“When I was 12 I just wanted someone to tell me its OK to be exactly how you are”
and I think so many of us can connect with that feeling.
We have a real problem with the way sports and physical activities are marketed and presented to us. Its often about this perceived lifestyle, or a pursuit of the perfect body…it can often be about specific goals, running a marathon or doing a headstand and we miss the crucial point…its about the journey folks, its about the daily practice, its about the connection you make between your body and your soul regardless of any of that other crap.
Ultimately its about looking in rather than looking out and being comfortable with who you are as a person, making peace with yourself.
It was an absolute honour to meet Jessamyn and I feel like something shifted in me that night. I am really excited about getting more into yoga practice, but on my own terms without the pressure of going to classes or doing it to aid my running…its more now about doing it to ensure the connection I have with myself stays strong.
In April we relaunch The Clubhouse our online running club and our first months theme will be “Stretching Ourselves” in its broadest sense.